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3/8 to 3/4 inch long
Commonly confused with: carpenter bees.

Distinguishing Marks

Broad, flattened shape
Six long spiny legs
Dark brown, reddish-brown, light brown, or black
Adults of most species have wings


Cockroaches are household pests throughout the United States. Although cockroaches are traditionally associated with dirty dwellings, they are being discovered even in the "best of homes." Cockroaches are one of the oldest of insects -- there are fossil remains of them dating back 200,000,000 years. They have survived such a long time because they have demonstrated outstanding ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats. Cockroaches feed on a variety if foods, with a preference for starchy and sugary material. Cockroaches will sip milk, soda or beer left out or left in un rinsed bottles, nibble cheese, feed on meats, pastry, grain products, sugar -- practically all the foods that we eat. They will also feed freely on book bindings, sizing, inner linings of shoe soles, and dead insects. They carry debris on their legs and bodies and may spread germs and contaminate food. Cockroaches also give off an offensive odor that may ruin food, or may persist on dishes or other items the roaches walk across.


There are four types of house-infesting roaches that are commonly seen in New York State. These are the American cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, German cockroach and Oriental cockroach. Cockroaches have a broad, flattened shape and six long spiny legs. They are dark brown, reddish-brown, light brown, or black. The adults of most species have wings. The following describes the roaches and their habits.


Cockroaches undergo a gradual metamorphosis, which mean that there are three stages in their development, egg -- nymph -- adult. The young nymphs resemble the adults, but they are smaller and have to wings. Cockroaches hide during the day in sheltered places. They come out to look for food at night, and if disturbed, run rapidly for shelter and disappear through openings to their hiding places. Some typical hiding places for roaches include warm, dark, moist places such as under a sink, or behind a dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, and upper cupboards.

Four Kinds of Cockroaches Troublesome in Buildings, Name Description Where Found

American Cockroach

(Periplaneta americana)

Reddish brown to dark brown. Adults 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. Develop in damp basements and sewers; forage mostly on first floors of buildings.

Brown-banded Cockroach

(Supella longipalpa)

-- also called tropical cockroach Light brown. Mottled, reddish-brown wings on female; lighter wings on male. Adults 1/2 inch long. Develop and live all over the building.

German Cockroach

(Blattella germanica)

-- also called croton bug, running bug, and water bug Light brown. Black stripes lengthwise on back. Adults 5/8 inch long. Most common of the four kinds. Develop and live all over the building, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms.

Oriental Cockroach

(Blatta orientalis)

-- also called black beetle and shad roach Black or dark brown. Traces of wings on females; short wings on males. Female adults 1 to 1 1/4 inches long; male adults a little shorter. More sluggish than the other three kinds. Develop in damp basements and sewers; forage mostly on first floors of buildings.
Cornell University, Dept. of Entomology, 2144 Comstock Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-2601
Prepared 1978 by Carolyn Klass, Senior Extension Associate, Dept. of Entomology, Cornell University
Updated 2012

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